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A Bend in the River

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by

Sarah Mitchell

on 6 January 2014

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Transcript of A Bend in the River

"He made me long to do what he had done, to be where he had been. In some ways he became my model" (21).
"He still had interests in his old country--a shop, a few agencies(...) and it was this shop and those agencies that he now offered me" (24).
Call to Adventure
A Bend in the River
Ordinary World
Refusal of the Call
Meeting the Mentor
Crossing the Threshold
Test, Allies, Enemies
Approach
Ordeal, Death & Rebirth
Reward, Seizing the Sword
The Road Back
Resurrection
Return with Elixir
Salim's journey is made possible through the guidance of Nazruddin, who sells him the shop at the town on the bend in the river.
Salim, the main character, lives on the east coast of Africa in an ethnically diverse city. He is of Indian descent and comes from a middle-class background. He's engaged to wealthy merchant Nazruddin's daughter, and he feels trapped within his structured, predictable life.
Shop
Nazruddin tells Salim that he is abandoning a store in Central Africa. He tells him that he is leaving it because the business is decreasing, but that it will eventually increase again.
After hearing about the shop, Salim wonders if he should stay with his family. He thinks that by leaving, he may be breaking his commitment to Nazruddin by calling off the engagement.
Salim crosses the threshold by leaving his home on the coast and heading for the town deep in Central Africa, in order to take over Nazruddin's shop.
"I thought: But this is madness. I am going in the wrong direction. There can't be new life at the end of this" (4).

"When I arrived I found that Nazruddin hadn't lied. The place had had its troubles: the town at the bend in the river was more than half destroyed" (4).
Zabeth, a tribal magician and one of Salim's customers, asks him to watch and teach her son, Ferdinand.

Ferdinand gives Salim bad vibes from the beginning. He starts to kneel, a sign of respect in the bush, but then decides not to, thinking Salim would not notice (37).

He gets along well with Metty, but Salim does not know whether or not to trust him.
Tests
Allies
Metty
Shoba and Mahesh
Metty belonged to Salim's family as a slave; however, he begs them to send him to Salim after experiencing violent upheaval in the East.
He adores Salim and acts as his servant.
Salim also befriends a couple, Shoba and Mahesh, who also move to the town.

The couple opens a successful franchaise, Big Burger.
Enemy
"The coast was not truly African. It was an Arab-Indian-Persian-Portuguese place, and we who lived there were really people of the Indian Ocean. True Africa was at our back" (10).
"I could no longer submit to Fate. My wish was not to be good, in the way of our tradition, but to make good... And this is why, when Nazruddin made his offer, of a shop and business in a far-off country that was still in Africa, I clutched at it" (20).
"The Big Man" refers to the President.

Speaks about democracy, but rules a corrupt regime.

As a foreigner, Salim loses his shop to undeserving Citizen Theotime under the president's radical measures.

Raymond and Yvette
Salim meets Raymond, who works for The Big Man, through Indar. He begins an adulterous relationship with his wife, Yvette.
He sees Raymond as an obstacle in his way to Yvette. He also is challenged by his relationship with Yvette, who he cannot control his anger towards.
"She was hit so hard and so often about the face, even through raised, protecting arms, that she staggered back and allowed herself to fall on the floor. I used my foot on her then..." (219).

This abuse continues further.

The jealousy Salim feels towards Raymond because of his relationship with Yvette tests Salim's self control.

Deviates from the classical hero. Rather than saving a damsel, he victimizes her. However, he does not see this as a problem.

"Nazruddin had seen faithfulness in my hand. But he had read me wrong. Because when I accepted his offer I was in an important way breaking faith with him... To break away from my family and community also meant breaking away from my unspoken commitment to Nazruddin and his daughter" (24).
Ferdinand
Indar
Salim meets up with his old friend from the coast, who lives in a wealthy and flashy area called the Domain.
Salim suddenly decides to move to England, returning to the ordinary, after growing to resent his friends and hate his life in the town.
"They had begun to rot. I was like them. Unless I acted now my fate would be like theirs." (228)
I decided to rejoin the world, to break out of the narrow geography of the town, to do my duty by those who depended on me." (228)
"That was pain, to understand that I was alone, and flying to quite a different destiny." (228)
When Salim returns to the ordinary world, he realizes that he could never fit into the ordinary world. After a conversation with his fiancée, he decides to return to Africa.
"Kareisha, talking about Indar, touched me more than she knew. That idea of going home, of leaving, the idea of the other place- I had lived with it in various forms for many years. In Africa it had always been with me... It was a deception... we had to live in the world as it existed." (244)
Salim returns and begins dealing ivory. After he is arrested and then released, he travels on the steamboat because he knows he will never find a home because of the corruption and change.
"The sympathy wore off as the town became more familiar and I began to see it as a larger version of my own town... Already, then, the tensions of Africa were returning to me." (248)
"The water hyacinths, 'the new thing in the river,' beginning so far away, in the centre of the continent, bucked past in clumps and tangles and single vines, here almost at the end of their journey." (249)
"You must go right away. There's nothing here for you. They've taken you into jail now... It means they'll take you in again... there's a steamer on Tuesday... Take it. It may be the last." (272)
Hero's Journey
Background
Prezi by Hajar Traiba, Kara Burns, Sarah Mitchell and Terence Casey
V.S. Naipaul
The story takes place in the Congo, recently independent from Belgium (early 1960s).
The Coup
The president instigates a revolution to to rid the country of unwanted Western influence.
The Domain
An area of living is built for government, soldiers and privileged foreigners.
Part of the President's plan to show prosperity of nation.

Purpose is unclear in the beginning.
Evaluation
As a foreigner, Salim views the political changes in the Congo with an outsider's perspective. He struggles to reconcile with the corruption around him and his lack of a stable home or identity.

Although Salim does not possess qualities of a classical hero, his account follows the hero's journey well.
The Big Man becomes increasingly powerful. He ramps up the propaganda (maximes) which Salim is forced to distribute.
Corruption, extortion, other fun things. "Citoyens"
Metty is adaptable- supports the Big Man, distances himself from Salim. "Patron"
Ferdinand takes everything in stride- searches for his own independence.
Salim:
" I grew to detest the physical feel of the place. My flat remained as it had always been. I had changed nothing there, because I lived with the idea that at a moment's notice I had to consider it all lost-the bedroom with the white-painted window panes and the big bed with the foam mattress, the roughly made cupboards with my smelly clothes and shoes, the kitchen with its smell of kerosene and frying oil and rust and dirt and cockroaches, the empty white studio-sitting room. Always there, never really mine, reminding me now only of the passing of time" (103).
The Big Man dismisses Raymond- White guy in the capital=embarrassing
Youth Guard: Big Man's version of Hitler Youth
Salim and Yvette awkwardly continue dating
Liberation Army- Reactionary Force, "The Ancestors Shriek" is the equivalent of Goldstein's book.
The police crack down- mass arrests, killings, lootings, due process was never really that cool anyway.
Salim keeps doing his thing like normal.
Salim:
Through Yvette I was bound to Raymond, and through Raymond I was bound more closely than ever to the fact or the knowledge of the President's power...we had all become his people" (184).
So Salim beats the crap out of Yvette. That happens.
Salim doesn't want to end up empty and unprotected like his traditional friends are.
He gets out of there.
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